Friday, March 17, 2017

Alternative Energy: Solar Panels

Alternative Energy

Are you curious about alternative energy sources that will aid you in your search for sustainability? Here’s a bit of information on solar panels, one of the largest and fastest growing alternative energy sources.

The First Solar Panels

 In the beginning, solar panels were designed to sit on the roofs of the buildings that the energy being collected was used for. The general shape of the first solar panels was rectangular. These solar panels consisted of multiple numbers of solar cells that were made from a silicon semiconductor. These solar cells were placed inside a laminate made of two sheets, one of which made of glass, with a layer of transparent synthetic resin. The laminate is there to provide protection of the solar cells along with the electric connections between them. It also acts as an immobilizer. Solar panels were often connected to the roof in a certain position in relation to the direction of the flow of rain water. The two side-by-side pieces of solar panels are connected at the edges of the laminate laying parallel to one another (Tourneux, 1982). These solar panels were large and expensive. They were built as best they could be with the technology that was present at the time. Because solar panels were just being developed, they tended to be more expensive than the average consumer could afford. Solar energy was soon adopted by many but ruled out by others.

Solar Energy Through The Years

Solar energy’s popularity reached its peak in the 1950’s. The controversy from the beginning of solar cells was their efficiency. At its lowest, solar energy’s efficiency was only at 14%. This was up until the 1970’s when Exon Corporation designed an efficient solar panel that cost less to manufacture. This milestone was the first of many breakthroughs in the history of solar power (EGT, 2013). The demand for solar energy has increased with the rise of technology. As materials become more accessible, so do different types of solar energy and different ways of obtaining it. Instead of the large solar panels that were brought to the attention of many interested people, technology has allowed us to create much more sustainable, portable, and desirable solar contraptions. Scientists have found a way to make new, thinner filmed cells that are cheaper and more flexible. These new solar cells are ultra-thin sheets of flexible plastic that are coated with a series of chemicals, including indium, gallium, and diselenide, and allow the module to turn sunlight into electricity.

Though solar technology has come a long way, it hasn’t happened over night. This new film is a young technology and moving it from a lab to become mass produced has been tricky. There are production disruptions and things that go unnoticed because factories produce these films on such a large scale. Another difficult process in making solar film is access to the raw materials needed. Companies are finding it more and more difficult to locate these materials and bring them to the factories safely.

In the late 1900’s and early 2000’s companies were pulling away from solar power completely because of the lack of materials. A company that was launched in 1999 had trouble at first trying to start-up its solar cell production because of this lack. It wasn’t until a patient backer inherited money into the company that they began their successful new beginning. The company now prospers with this new-found approach that allowed the company to bring the cost of solar materials down.
The new technology that allowed for this major breakthrough was because of Nanosolar CEO Martin Roscheisen. He claimed that he can achieve radical cost savings by directly applying photoactive chemicals with an ink composed of nanoparticles. Producers of solar panels and like objects are finding it easier to get into the market as it grows and cheaper thin film cuts into the share held by crystalline silicon (Walsh, 2008).


Current Solar Power Technologies

There are many new technologies and uses of solar energy. People are coming up with new ways to convert solar energy to be more efficient and there are many new inventions that have caught the eye of many investors.


Solar Chimney

 Roof integrated solar chimneys use solar radiation to heat air and induce natural ventilation through a house. The way these chimneys improve the performance of roof integrated photovoltaic arrays is by removing head absorbed by the panels, and enhancing buoyant free cooling at night. The model of this chimney is divided into several zones to better resolve the airflow and heat transfer. An analysis of this chimney confirms that the inside temperature difference is the most important predictor of ventilation airflow. This chimney is a possible alternative to wood or gas heat (DeBlois, 2012).

Portable Solar Powered Cellphone Charger

A new cellphone charger has been made with its primary source of power being solar. This charger includes two separate solar panels and a battery switch containing unit. The two panels are connected together by hinges and the battery switch unit is connected to the back side of one of the panels. The main part of the charger pivots between retracted configurations where the tree component parts lie in parallel panels. The device is operable in three different modes. In the first mode, the solar panels are connected to charge or power the cellphone.  In the second mode the solar panels are connected to charge the devices internal battery, and in the third the battery is used to charge or power a phone connected to the device (Po-Jung, 2005).

The technology of solar power has definitely grown since the first solar panels were introduced in the 1950’s. People have grown more accustomed to their likes and dislikes in the controversy of solar energy. Some people side with the pros of solar power and others side with the cons. Solar power is continuing to develop over time but isn’t the main source of energy for any country. However, the possibility still exists. As we continue to grow as a nation, the United States will adopt new technologies and ways of using solar energy.


References Consulted
Tourneux, M., Villacoubly, V. (1982, June 22). United States Patent. Retrieved from http://www.google.com/patents?hl=en&lr=&vid=USPAT4336413&id=3O8sAAAAEBAJ&oi=fnd&dq=what+are+solar+panels+made+of%3F&printsec=abstract#v=onepage&q=what%20are%20solar%20panels%20made%20of%3F&f=false

Copyright (2013). History of Solar Energy. Retrieved from http://exploringgreentechnology.com/solar-energy/history-of-solar-energy/

Walsh, B., Time, (2008, June 23). Solar Power’s New Style. Retrieved from http://web.ebscohost.com.proxy.lib.pdx.edu/ehost/detail?sid=2285e465-ef43-4eb6-93fa-4b798194988e%40sessionmgr11&vid=5&hid=19&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=a9h&AN=32637607

DeBlois, J.C., Bilec, M.M., Schaefer, L.A. (2012, November 28). Design and zonal building energy modeling of a roof integrated solar chimney. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com.proxy.lib.pdx.edu/science/article/pii/S0960148112006684#

Po-Jung, J. (2005, December 20). Portable Cell Phone Battery Charger Using Solar Energy As The Primary Source Of Power. Retrieved from http://www.google.com/patents?hl=en&lr=&vid=USPAT6977479&id=QOIUAAAAEBAJ&oi=fnd&dq=solar+powered+cell+phone+charger&printsec=abstract#v=onepage&q=solar%20powered%20cell%20phone%20charger&f=false

Devabhaktuni, V., Alam, M., Depur, S., Green, R.C., Nims, D., Near, C. (2012, November 8). Solar Energy: Trends and enabling technologies. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com.proxy.lib.pdx.edu/science/article/pii/S1364032112006363

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